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At Indian Wells, a Shot of Optimism for American Men’s Tennis


It is not any takeover: The highest 10 stays nearly all European, with Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada because the lone interloper. Nevertheless it is progress, and there appears to be considerable upside.

“I believe that’s true,” said Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst, former pro player and U.S. Davis Cup captain. “I believe particularly from Opelka, Brooksby, Korda and possibly throw Fritz in there, although I don’t know if he’s got the athleticism to get to the top-top.”

McEnroe, like a number of people in tennis, looks on the 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, together with his blazing speed and all-action, all-court game, and clearly sees a future No. 1 player.

“I wouldn’t say that concerning the Americans,” McEnroe said. “But I might say, to me, I could see Brooksby, Korda and Opelka definitely hitting the highest five sooner or later and definitely attending to the ultimate 4 or final of a serious. That’s what it’s going to take to get the common fan slightly bit more fascinated about it, little doubt. So, I’m very optimistic, and if you’ve gotten one or two of those guys do this, I believe the opposite guys will feel much more emboldened.”

The Americans had a frightening Wednesday ahead, with Opelka facing Nadal, Brooksby facing the defending tournament champion Cameron Norrie and Isner facing the No. 33 seed Grigor Dimitrov. Fritz defeated the Alex de Minaur, the No. 29 seed, to achieve the quarterfinals, but no other American joined him.

Still, this has been a protracted time constructing, and McEnroe had a view near the bottom floor as the top of the US Tennis Association’s player development program. He was pushed out in late 2014 partly due to poor men’s tour results. When his tenure ended, Isner was the one American man ranked in the highest 50, but while in his role, McEnroe heard and saw loads of Opelka, Paul, Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, a charismatic African American player from the Washington, D.C., area.

All 4 are projected to be ranked in the highest 40 after this tournament, with Opelka currently the top-ranked American at No. 17.

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